After many years of waiting, of fan petitions, of hysteria, The Hobbit is here, folks!
I will start off by saying that I was a little concerned when I heard they were making three movies. I loved Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and it made sense that it was made into three separate films. They were three separate books, with a very deep, rich storyline. The Hobbit is only one book, and a much simpler one at that. Splitting it into three movies sounded crazy, even though they are bringing in more material from other books and fleshing out things that only get mentioned in a sentence or two. As I settled into my chair in the theater and the familiar Howard Shore music swept over me, all concerns faded away. It didn’t matter if the movies were perfect. We were headed back to Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth again. It was like visiting an old friend.
The movie begins with two actors from the original trilogy, Ian Holm as older Bilbo Baggins and Elijah Wood as Frodo. It warmed my heart just to see those two! It is just before Bilbo’s big party and Bilbo is writing his book about his adventures. I had to chuckle just a little when Frodo says he’s going to go read in the woods and wait for Gandalf, since of course, that’s how Fellowship of the Ring opens. Bilbo tells the story of Erebor, the dwarf kingdom that was taken over by Smaug the Terrible, a large dragon. This shows one of Peter Jackson’s strengths – balancing the sweeping epic story with smaller, more personal scenes. It’s a necessary skill for this story and he is a master at it.
Then we go back in time to when Bilbo was a younger, more carefree hobbit. Gandalf shows up and asks if he’s interested in coming on an adventure. Bilbo doesn’t think anyone in the Shire is interested in adventures, least of all him. And then the dwarves show up. Dwalin, Balin, Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Bifor, Bofor, Bombar, Nori, Dori, and Ori. And of course, Thorin Oakenshield, grandson of the last King of Erebor. Here’s where I think the movie improves on the book. When I first read The Hobbit, I didn’t care for it. The story seemed silly. I didn’t care about a bunch of dwarves who just want to get their gold back. Who cares if they get their gold back? But Jackson has changed it slightly. Getting the gold back is just a side benefit. What these dwarves want is to reclaim their homeland of Erebor. Suddenly, the stakes seem much higher.
Casting – let’s start with the obvious – Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. What perfect casting! Freeman plays perfectly this everyday man who is thrown into extraordinary events. He is self-deprecating, yet stands up for what he believes in. Returning actors from the first trilogy all sparkle, most notably Ian McKellan as Gandalf and Hugo Weaving as Elrond. My new fictional crush, however, is Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. He is dark and brooding and everything you’d expect of a young prince trying to take his people home.
The movie was fun, if a bit long. They could have edited a bit more, but truthfully, I didn’t care. It was so much fun visiting Middle Earth again. So even if you are skeptical of this movie, go see it. Don’t get caught up in any of the hype or criticism. Just enjoy a rollicking romp through fantasy.